Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Logic of War

What's happened to wars? Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great and Attila the Hun wouldn't recognize today's version at all. It used to be that if you won, you looted the country, enslaved its people and renamed cities. No questions asked. That was the way war was. It was simple and straightforward. War was a logical (although very brutal) method of settling disputes and/or increasing a country's power and wealth. An added bonus was that it also served as a pretty effective method of increasing the pool of potential brides for the victors.
No more. Starting somewhere around World War I, wars became much more complicated endeavors. Instead of the pure simplicity of being a conqueror, the winner suddenly was faced with the prospect of taking care of the losers and rebuilding what they had just destroyed. Wars actually cost the victor power and wealth. What a loony concept!
After World War II, the U.S. celebrated its victory by creating the Marshall Plan, under which it spent a fortune building up Germany and the rest of Western Europe so they could compete with the U.S. Similar support was given to Japan. This activity was a fabulous success, as denoted by the loss of the American car manufacturing industry among its other achievemnents. Some might quibble that rebuilding Western Europe and Japan was necessary to fend off the Russians from taking over, but it still seems crazy that the winner would pay the losers.
As I write this, the U.S. is fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the Israelis are devastating the Gaza Strip. In none of these three conflicts will the likely victor win anything as simple as land and slaves.
The U.S.eradicated the Saddam dictatorship and now just wants to get the heck out of Iraq after spending 7 years, several thousand American lives and more than $600 billion first destroying and then trying to rebuild the place. The initial assault and its follow-on insurgency, along with a civil war among the entirely insane Islamic Sunni and Shia, has killed tens of thousands of Iraqis and generally turned most of the rest of the world against the U.S..
In Afghanistan, the U.S. is trying to erase the nutty Taliban, probably leaving a bunch of warlords to rule in its place. Given Afghanistan's history of swallowing up the British and then the Soviets, the U.S. will be lucky to extract itself from there anytime soon. How much it will cost in lives and treasure is anyone's guess; but no matter what the cost and how badly the Taliban are crushed, the odds are pretty high that Afghanistan will slide back into the 12th century rather than become the 51st U.S. state.
In Gaza, the Israelis are beating the pulp out of the insane Hamas zealots. The Israelis say they just want Hamas to stop firing rockets at them. They haven't yet publicly said that they want to totally eliminate Hamas, but that's what they really desire. The Israelis will probably not fully achieve either objective once they're forced by the rest of the world (but mostly the U.S.) to settle for one more in a seemingly never-ending number of cease fire agreements. Actually, a simple cease fire in Gaza may be the best outcome for the Israelis. If the Iranians, who are funding Hamas, also free Hezbollah to attack from Lebanon, the costs could escalate to really ominous levels.
All in all, war made a whole lot more sense in the old days. Winners won and losers lost. Nothing more, nothing less.


Neverwrong said...

Completely agree...war needs to be like hockey. Ties need to be resolved with shootouts, pun intended.

SpecRider on the Storm said...

Totally agree with Neverwrong... and got a good belly laugh as well...